Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Kinetic Sprint - Amazingwe Lodge

17 April 2011

Mike & William - 3rd in Men's Pairs

Con & Sue - 4th in Mixed pairs

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

YstervARK LEGEND - 8/9 April 2011

Captain my Captain William, This is my Swansong Con, Flying Portuguese Nando and Mighty Mouse Sue.

The final race in the series - rumoured to be LEGEND - we had to be there! As usual it was not plain sailing before the race. William managed to pancake his front wheel rim while riding to work on Monday - this is a model for which you can no longer get spares, AND you don’t want to buy a new bike the week before a race! Then we discovered that one of the canoes we had counted on using, due to a mix up in communication, was not available to us any longer.......!

This had William running around organizing bike parts and canoes frantically in the evening, so that we could test them at Emmarentia on Thursday.
The Gods were on our side, as the canoe he bought - a Foxbat - turned out to be perfect for our needs, if you discount the fact that more than half of the team do not want to spend more time swimming it to the nearest bank, rather than paddling it! She’s a Foxy Lady....fast and unpredictable!

The trip out to Aasvoelkrans Resort went like clockwork, William, Con and I in William’s car with bikes and boats on top - we were there by 7......with no sign of race organizers anywhere. We thought we had more than enough time to prepare and maybe even fit in a little sleep? However, putting bikes together, doing kit check, stuffing down food, shuttling boats to the dam at Olifantsnek and testing out our shelter for the anticipated kit check on route, took us right up to race start. Clinton had managed to raise 11 teams from a total of only 2 on the Monday, so we had the usual quantity of racers. A quick check of hands, revealed that around half of them were virgin racers, looking a little chilly and apprehensive in the dark.

The first task was a quick orienteering run around the resort, using verbal clues to collect our passport - surprising how difficult it was in the dark and unfamiliar territory. The teams now split up a little, we hefted our backpacks, mounted our bikes and set off into the dark. (45km MTB)

Knowing we were in the Magalies area and the roads were all likely to go UP, did not actually help at all! Race Director Nico had found the longest district road in South Africa that goes UP AND UP AND.......The trouble with cycling in the dark is that you cannot see how far you still need to climb, but after an hour of climbing, you would just really like to KNOW? Anyway, the turn onto the farmer’s mealie fields was a welcome sight, the grassy jeep track.....a change of scenery, the view downhill heavenly!
Into transition some time after midnight and happy Hallo’s shared with Uncharted. They were just exiting the caves and Lizelle was pumped up by everything she had seen and done. She assured us that it was “GONNA BE AWESOME”!
The first of the surprises Clinton had promised us.......this is the Weltevreden Caves - our entry an abseil (30m) down a pit entrance, where miners used to mine lime in the early 1900’s. (3.5km orienteering) We were given a map and instructions to stay away from the fungus on the floors - rumoured to cause illness if inhaled. It being around 2am in the morning, our trip around the caves was somewhat otherworldly! I almost felt as if I had fallen into a Star Trek movie, trekking the 3.5km around underground looking for checkpoints. The ground underfoot was loose and slippery, but we spent time sneaking quick peeks around at the stalagtites and formations, while checking below for fungus, ducking flying bats and negotiating slippery rocks! So odd to be wandering around alone and far away from the ‘real world’ then bump into familiar faces of other racers, around the next corner!

Nando bravely volunteered to crawl into all the small muddy spaces to find hidden checkpoints and Con did a fantastic job of keeping us on route. One vertical boulder strewn shaft was a little beyond our sensible capabilities and we elected to go back by the safe route. With flagging headlamps, we completed that leg and sat down to change batteries and transition back onto bikes. Tshwane had organized hot and cold drinks at this point, and it was very welcome. Thanks, Guys! It was not only AWSOME, but also LEGEND!

Now for the long leg through the dawn to the dam (50km). Knowing that we had climbed so much, we anticipated a long run downhill, back in the direction we had already come. The downhill took a while to arrive, but finally we were tearing into the dawn back to the dam. Several teams were in the area when we arrived, and upon seeing a chilly looking group entering the water for a swim, we told ourselves that they had obviously forgotten their canoes and elected to swim instead - little did we know this was the next surprise engineered by Clinton!

A quick anti-cockwise trip around the dam (7km), into slightly choppy waters, gained us checkpoints at the Willow tree and a trip up the bank for the Cave checkpoint. Back to the log strewn exit from the dam, where Con very nearly dragged me off my feet in his eagerness to get onto the next leg. Here was Eric to preserve the moment with his camera. William whipped out his penknife to remove the headlamp from his bike helmet and being somewhat sleep deprived, left it in the grass, hereby losing us 10 hard earned minutes from our finishing time! Not that it mattered.............

Now we discovered that we had to chose between a hike around the dam, or a swim directly across - of course this being adventure racing, it was the swim (200m), which turned out to be the best option, as the hike lost a couple of teams their final places in the race. Stripping down to as little as possible, exchange some insults with Eric and we set out kitted in life jackets, which then needed dragging behind us for the rest of the race (20km), but as I said before, this is adventure racing! We had exchanged race position with team Stealth several times during the race and were running a ding dong battle with them right up to the dam wall where we left them having a bite to eat and looking a little tired - maybe they were just tired of our incessant banter? The hike to the dam wall was interesting, mainly for the quantities of fauna and flora, specifically the Nephila Clavipes - better known as Golden Orb-web Spiders. Boy! There were plenty of them! Large and carnivorous looking.....though we told ourselves they were not poisonous....we have the odd arachnophobe in the team, so William took up a large stick and beat the trail for the rest of us!

The route away from the dam wall checkpoint, lead straight up the cliff face, past the first peak, then onto the second and at last we could see the first beacon shining high in the distance. That done, we could see the next 2 checkpoint beacons somewhere further into the clouds before us, but this is what we have been training for.....the shrubbery even looked like fynbos, so on we went. William was particularly thrilled to be following a trail only a metre wide, with steep dropoffs on both sides - we felt a lot like we were doing Salomon Skyrun just there. Somewhere on the top of that peak, we met Nico running alone and in the middle of nowhere. He explained that he was just out checking on things and that we were close to the next checkpoint, where we would start descending. Whoop! Whoop!

At that checkpoint, came the expected gear check. We hunkered down and squashed ourselves under the flysheet - unexpectedly discovering the largest ‘penknife’ we have ever seen, lost in the grass. You could skin an elephant with that thing! That completed, we elected to miss the boulder route off the mountain and try the chain ladder - because it sounded like more fun! It must have been quite a climb up, as we discovered Eric (again) and Karin flaked out in the grass at the top. A quick stop to satisfy the photographer and then a shaky descent down the slippery ladder......will it ever end? Legs wobbly and untrustworthy by this stage.

At last on solid, if not horizontal ground, we spent what seemed like hours trailing Con, who could smell the finish, down the foothills and back to the Aasvoelkrans Resort.
We told ourselves if just one person clapped, we would run through the finish - well exactly one person clapped, so we raised a jog and completed our race happy......and well before prize giving! We finished in 5th place in a time of 16h05 with a warm welcome from Clint and a bottle of Coke for our troubles.

Congratulations to Hawkstone on a highly deserved win and to all the other teams who took part - you're all winners!

Thanks go to Tshwane Adventure Racing Club for organizing yet another excellent race! We even managed to each win a Buff! (by default) Thanks guys.......it was LEGEND! We’ll be back!

Mighty Mouse